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Rodeo cruelty: Horrific death of bull at Pukemanu Bullride

Rodeo cruelty: Horrific death of bull at Pukemanu Bullride

By Lynley Tulloch

On Friday 2 February a bull lost his life at the Pukemanu Bullride in Martinborough. It wasn’t a glorious death. Spectators say he bellowed and salivated, clearly distressed as he lay on the ground. He had broken his leg and was in extreme pain. He dragged himself out of the ring and was euthanised.

This bull died in a state of pain, fear, and terror. He was reportedly a rising three-year-old, in the prime of his life.

No animal, or human for that matter, should die like this. Death comes to us all, but we certainly don’t want our last minutes on Earth to be filled with horror. Even worse is the fact that he died for the entertainment of people.

This bull died in what is described by the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association as “one of New Zealand’s most exciting and thrilling sports”. My understanding of sport is one where individuals and teams compete against each other with the aid of inanimate objects like balls. There is an element of consent between the parties and an agreement about the rules. But with rodeo the bull is not considered as a subject worthy of due care. In my view, when you use an animal as fodder for your sport I think you are on ethically questionable grounds.

My position is this: animals should not be used as objects for entertainment or sport. They are sentient beings – meaning that they feel the same range of emotions that humans do, and with just as much intensity. They are aware of their existence. We shouldn’t poke them with sharp spurs, put flank straps on them or sit on them for a required eight seconds while they wind themselves into a frenzy. This scares the bull terribly and can result in injuries such as a broken leg.

Yet at rodeos the animals pain is dismissed. The National spokesman for the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Associations Michael Laws rejects claims of suffering through reference to the Rodeo Code of Welfare. It’s a bit like a reverse story of the Emperor’s new clothes. The cruelty at rodeo is supposed to be invisible because Michael Law’s says its not there. "We're very satisfied that animals are well protected and well regarded."

It never fails to amaze me that the public is supposed to swallow that line. Rodeos are clearly cruel to anyone who is sensitive to animal suffering. Steers are wrestled and have their necks twisted 180 degrees, calves are chased and roped and tied up; and bulls have their legs broken after being forced to buck with a man on their back.

And yet rodeo is touted as family entertainment. This is horrifying as it results in the desensitisation of children to animal cruelty.

I have no doubt that riding a bull requires a certain amount of athletic prowess. I have attended a Bullride once and have seen the incredible balance and skill that the cowboys possess.

But I was most unimpressed with the clear suffering the bulls were experiencing. I love bovines and have spent that last four years raising a small number of rescue bobby calves. I have seen them grow up into playful and affectionate adult animals. They possess a dignity and sensitivity unparalleled by any other animal I have known.

Bovines are magical beings with sensitive natures. They don’t deserve to be used to test the sporting agility of ‘cowboys’. Which brings me to another point. The people who participate at rodeo are not real cowboys. A cowboy is someone who works cattle on a ranch from horseback and practices good stockmanship. As veterinarian and previous bronco rider Dr. Peggy Larson has said: “Rodeos have nothing to do with good stockmanship or farming practice. Farmers aim to handle their animals in a manner that causes the least amount of stress to the animals, whilst rodeo riders do the opposite.”

The suffering of the bull with the broken leg was sad and shocking. It is not right to see an animal suffer under the banner of sport or entertainment.


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